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UCLA Football vs. Stanford Preview: Stanford Defense Has Started The Season Strong

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The Bruins will be up against a seasoned Stanford defense, which includes a former major league baseball player.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kennedy Polamalu and Co. are going to have to bring it together this week to get a win over the Trees. We’ve lost eight in a row, and frankly, I’m sick of it. This continual lackluster play needs to end here and now. I know we’re all frustrated with McCaffrey running up and down the field, so let’s look at Stanford’s defense first. We’ll rip the offense band aid off another day.

Defensive Line

Solomon Thomas is listed in the #1 spot as a defensive end. Last season, he played in 14 games, which included 39 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss. He is already on the Chuck Bednarik Award witch list and recorded four tackles against Kansas State and three against USC. Not bad for someone who used to play on offense. He is described as quick and explosive, and at 6’3", 275 pounds, he is leading the Stanford defense in the right direction, holding their opponents to 23 TOTAL points so far in two games. Harrison Phillips was also slated to start on the D-line this season, but he has been nursing a knee injury. He was injured in the second half against K-State and did not play against USC. At the time of the publication of this article, he is still questionable for Saturday.

Defensive Backs

Another beast on defense is Zach Hoffpauir. Zach decided to return for his senior season after being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 22nd round of the 2015 MLB draft. His numbers weren’t great (OPS of 0.775), so it’s not hard to see why he decided to put his baseball career on hold for now and go back to the ‘Furd. Even though he is not listed as a starter, he recorded a team-high nine tackles (eight solo) against Kansas State and already has 11 total for the season. He will provide some much needed leadership and experience on defense after the departures of Ronnie Harris and Kodi Whitfield. Sophomore Quenton Meeks is another exciting player to watch on defense. He recorded three tackles against Kansas State and picked off USC last Saturday. Dallas Lloyd is a key returner as well.

Linebackers

Peter Kalambayi, a senior on the line, has garnered preseason accolades such as the Butkus Award watch list, Phil Steele’s All-Pac 12 Preseason First Team, and the Athlon All-Pac-12 preseason second team. He recorded six tackles (three for loss) and 2.5 sacks against Kansas State. Kevin Palma and Bobby Okereke are both listed as starters at the ILB position, and although they are the first two, expect to see plenty of rotation in this position. Stanford is stacked here as well, with no Freshman starting and plenty of experience in the secondary.

Analysis

The Stanford defense, although not highlighted much in the past, is coming out strong early in the season. For example, Stanford held JuJu Smith-Schuster to just 34 yards on three catches last week, and also managed to stop the Trojan offense on a key fourth-and-one in the red zone in the fourth quarter. The experience in the secondary is going to give our receivers a run for their money and their defensive line will not allow for much movement up front. With the up and down offensive performances we’ve seen so far, unless there is significant change this week, Rosen is going to have a really hard time overcoming this experienced defense. The media is really good at highlighting the Christian McCaffrey Show, but they leave out the part about the defense that has been stopping their opponents in their tracks this season. Stanford’s offense runs a good tempo, which gives the defense the perfect amount of time to rest. This worries me as well. Our offense will need to convert on third down and give the defense ample time to recover...but that’s a discussion for another day.

This is your Stanford defensive preview. Check back for our offensive preview later this week.

Go Bruins!